Kelsey Buecheler was the only vegetarian at the dinner table.
Her boycott of meat at age 12 began as an ethical stance and grew into a lifestyle of healthy eating and a fascination with nutrition.
“I had to learn how to supplement all the nutrients that I needed in my diet at a very young age by myself because I’m the only vegetarian in the family,” said Buecheler, a resident of Henrietta and a third-year honors student in the nutrition management program in the College of Health Sciences and Technology.
Buecheler is one of a small cohort of 10 students that has moved in lockstep through the rigorous program.
“We all have to go through the same things,” she said. “If I have any questions I know I can ask any of them about it.”
The nutrition management program comes with high expectations. Students must maintain a 3.2 grade point average and gain clinical experience through co-ops. After graduation, Buecheler and her peers will be required to complete a mandatory yearlong dietetic internship. The highly competitive clinical training will make them eligible to sit for the registered dietitian examination. RIT’s program has a 98 percent placement rate for the dietetic internship, Buecheler said. She attributes the program’s success to its emphasis on real-work experience.
“Co-ops are a good opportunity that other nutrition majors around the country might not have,” Buecheler said. “I think it really separates us when we’re applying for internships that we have two or three jobs that back us up with experience.”
Her résumé lists a highly selective Wegmans’ Culinary, Perishable and Hospitality Internship. She spent her sophomore summer training for 12 weeks with Wegmans executive chefs in the store’s perishable departments. Buecheler, who has worked for the supermarket since she was 15, was the first Wegmans employee in Rochester to win the internship.
She now works throughout the year as a diet office assistant at Highland Hospital. The position gives her clinical experience and will count as her third co-op this summer. During academic breaks, Buecheler works as a culinary assistant at the Jewish Home of Rochester, another source of clinical experience. She also clocks a minimum of 200 hours a year at Wegmans on Calkins Road to maintain a scholarship she won from the supermarket.
Buecheler finds inspiration in the work ethic and community-focus of her nutrition management professors, Barbra Cerio and Elizabeth Kmiecinski, her adviser.
“They want what’s best for us and push us to do more,” she said. “They also push us to be very involved in the community, which I think is very important.”
Buecheler enjoys the counseling aspect of dietetics and looks forward to helping people make healthy choices. She hopes to someday become a registered dietitian in a nursing home.
The recently announced expansion of the College of Health Sciences and Technology to include the Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition reinforces for Buecheler that she is entering a growing field that is gaining awareness.
“A lot of people are interested in nutrition and how to eat healthy lately,” she said. “Your health starts with what you put in your body.”